K-pop’s title tracks might gain most of listeners’ attention, but many album tracks are worth equal spotlight. I call these “buried treasures.”
Beyond this, K-pop’s albums deliver thousands of additional tracks that settle for a more limited audience. It’s these songs that will become a part of my “battle of the b-sides” feature.
In this feature, I’ll be putting on my A&R hat and taking a listen to five randomly-selected K-pop b-sides. I’ll write a mini review for each, including a Bias List rating, and rank them from least to most favorite. The winner will join a special Bias List B-side playlist. Think of it like my own little agency, hand-selecting songs I’d like to pitch to my nonexistent artists!
Battle of the B-sides: Round Fifty
2PM – Give U Class (2016)
2PM have a lot of great b-sides, both in Korean and Japanese. For me, Give U Class isn’t one of them. It’s a perfectly serviceable album filler, but the song doesn’t really go anywhere. I’m not a fan of the sluggish beat (even though it’s laced with some cool synth flourishes) and there’s not enough of a melodic pull to keep my attention. On the plus side, the guys sound great. But with 2PM, that’s to be expected.
P1Harmony – That’s It (2020)
P1Harmony’s albums are usually stuffed with interesting hip-hop tracks. I don’t always love them, but I think the group is very good at delivering them. That’s It harnesses a wonky, off-balance riff that gives its beat a great sense of movement. It becomes a little one-note as the song goes on, but I appreciate the idiosyncratic nature of the production. The rapping is a ton of fun and well-delivered and the simple hook works well.
Kara – Tasty Love (2010)
It’s Kara in all their Sweetune-produced glory! Lupin is a great mini album with a killer title track, though it has at least three songs that I prefer to Tasty Love. At this point, Sweetune’s production (especially on their b-sides) tended to be a bit more hit and miss for me. Tasty Love feels foundational to much of their later work, but more like a sketch than the fully-realized music we’d get on their title tracks. Kara is in full sugary, saccharine mode. Thankfully, we’ve got jolts of electric guitar to counter the sweetness.
Sistar – Bad Boy (ft. Mad Clown) (2015)
Have I mentioned how much I miss Sistar? For me, there has yet to be a girl group who can rival the strength of their vocalists (well… maybe Mamamoo but they often waste those vocals on so-so title tracks). Bad Boy is a gorgeous midtempo with an instantly-appealing melody and smooth, emotive vocal performance. Even a guest rap by Mad Clown (who isn’t always my cup of tea) doesn’t dull the experience. It’s a stately track that takes its time to dole out its many highlights.
Mirae – Amazing (2022)
Mirae just released a new album last week, but we’ll travel back to January for Amazing. I featured its companion Juice as a buried treasure, but Amazing almost could have been a contender as well. It’s not as melodically sharp, but I like its loping funk beat and smooth arrangement. Even so, this is quintessential b-side material and needs hookier songwriting to stand out. The bright vocals help give it some character.
Fifth: 2PM – Give U Class
Fourth: P1Harmony – That’s It
Third: Mirae – Amazing
Second: Kara – Tasty Love
First: Sistar – Bad Boy (ft. Mad Clown)
Congratulations to Sistar’s Bad Boy – the fiftieth winner of my Battle of the B-sides!
Readers, what do you think? Did you discover any hidden gems? Leave your own ranking in the comments!